Northern California rain has filled reservoirs from Folsom to Shasta and Trinity, but there’s another drought up here that is 276 minutes in the making, or more than three consecutive USL matches for Republic FC. If you know how to put the ball in the back of the net, please call Paul Buckle. The coach is in the market for a scorer on a team where goals these days are only a memory.
It’s not that Buckle’s boys aren’t trying. You could say they’ve actually been dominating. In Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to Saint Louis FC at Bonney Field, they launched 18 shots to the opponent’s six, and they worked the ball in for 11 corner kicks to the other guys’ one. The numbers were about the same in the loss to Portland earlier last week.
We know that we need one of the strikers to step forward. They know that.
Republic FC coach Paul Buckle
Soccer haters, who can’t seem to enjoy a good play unless it includes a point or more, decry the game’s lack of scoring. Their version of a good time was the NBA All-Star Game, where the West beat the East 196-173. If only Republic FC could score as Georgia Tech did in a 1916 defeat of Cumberland, 222-0, in a football game of another sort that helped Rambling Wreck coach John Heisman get a trophy named after him. Cumberland, however, would have gained a tie that day with Republic FC. A hundred years later, Buckle is not a bit happy about that.
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The coach said he usually prefers to scan his roster for adjustments about every eight matches. With his team scoring only two goals in five games, he’s thinking about stepping up the timetable to about right now.
“Yeah, we’ve been looking,” Buckle said. “We’ve been looking at strikers. We’ve got such a great spirit here with the players. We’re a good side. I’m not going to say we’re not a good team. We are a good team. But that final bit, at the top end – it takes some time. I want to be patient. I don’t want to rush into anything.”
But Buckle continued, “We know that we need one of the strikers to step forward. They know that.”
Republic FC flashed crispness and intensity early in Saturday’s fray against a team called upon to help St. Louis struggle past the loss of its other football team, the Rams, to Los Angeles. Center back Derek Foran seemed particularly inspired. He won every ball in his vicinity and threw his body in front of a missile fired by Saint Louis midfielder Schillo Tshuma in the box in the 18th minute.
Foran appeared especially determined early, maybe because of the focus directed upon him for losing a ball that led to the only goal in the Portland loss. It seemed painful, then, in the 59th minute Saturday when Saint Louis turned around a Sacramento corner kick and the visitors’ Irvin Herrera ran through Foran on his way to the red zone. Foran’s effort to stop him was met with a knee to the head, and the Irishman doesn’t remember the subsequent sequence of events – Herrera’s delivery on his right to Mike Ambersley, who pinged one off Republic FC defender James Kiffe’s left side and between the sprawling hometown goalkeeper, Dominik Jakubek, and the near post.
“I’ll have to watch it back,” Foran said. “We could have conceded a foul, which would have helped, but we didn’t.”
I understand it completely. It’s not personal for me. It’s not personal for them.
Saint Louis goaltender Patrick McLain, formerly of Republic FC, on insults from the Tower Bridge Battalion
On the other end, Republic FC fans may have recognized the man in goal for Saint Louis. Patrick McLain patrolled the same areas last year in Republic red. In the offseason, he applied for a job with the Chicago Fire, which hired him. He has yet to make it onto the field for the Major League Soccer squad, but the Fire was kind enough to lend him to Saint Louis on Friday. You wonder how Cubs and Cardinals fans would take to the soccer kinship that has taken hold between the towns. In any event, McLain has as many shutouts and complete games on the season as Jake Arrieta, another Chicago stopper.
For half of Saturday’s match, McLain turned away Republic FC within close earshot of the Tower Bridge Battalion. A hero to the end zone rooting section last year, the McLain of 2016 endured his fair share of friendly abuse Saturday from the TBB.
He called the experience “awesome.”
“I understand it completely,” McLain said of the Battalion’s insults. “It’s not personal for me. It’s not personal for them.”
The challenge for Republic FC now is to find a way to slip the ball past men such as McLain. Buckle likes the team’s talent up front – from loaners such as Adam Jahn, Mark Sherrod and Tommy Thompson from San Jose, and from his own forces, including 20-year-old Harry Williams, who started Saturday and had several enjoyable runs that unfortunately ended in frustration for River City.
Buckle said the lack of scoring is not all on the forwards. He wants more production from the wide areas, and he wants his backs to stick their noses in there with a little tougher approach on corner kicks.
He wants scoring from everywhere, but right now he’ll take it from anywhere.